Tornado Prediction a Mix of Art and Science

Try to live a life of diminishing regrets. I’d rather have a dozen people come up and accuse me of “hyping the weather” than one person saying “where were you when the tornado touched down?”

Weather technology is good, but still not perfect, and never will be. Tornadoes are usually too small to show up on Doppler radar. But the spinning parent thunderheads often spin up tornadoes, and warnings are issued to be safe. 70 percent of tornado warnings are false alarms, but the lead time from tornado detection to arrival has jumped from 5 minutes in the 1970s to 13 minutes today.

Slightly drier, more stable air insulates us from noisy thunderstorms today and much of Thursday. Our wet bias limps on, with more storms Friday, again late Saturday, as a cooler front approaches, keeping any 90s to our south. No, the weekend doesn’t look nearly as hot, and right now Sunday appears to be the sunnier, drier, nicer day.

Gazing at long-range models the weather looks sunny with 80s for the first 2 days of the State Fair.

Photo credit: 767 pilot Chris Parrish, somewhere near St. Louis.

A Dozen Tornado Touchdowns Tuesday? The same parent supercell thunderstorm was responsible for many of these touchdowns. Check out the list of tornadoes, hail and damaging winds, courtesy of The National Weather Service.

A Break From Puddles. After yesterday’s atmospheric tantrum today will be a lot easier to take with inervals of sun and highs in the mid-70s with a slight dip in humidity. Map credit: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Looking Hotter. It’s like clockwork – more times than not the mercury hits 90F during the Minnesota State Fair, and 2019 probably won’t be an exception. The forecast 2 weeks out looks hot for most of the USA.

How the Jet Stream is Changing Your Weather. Here’s an excerpt from “…The changes in the jet stream are something researchers call “nonlinear” phenomenon: shifts that can take place suddenly or not at all, that do not proceed in a straight line. Stendel, from the Danish Meteorological Institute, says this can exacerbate the effects of climate change. That has major implications for the melting ice sheet and means that sea levels could rise faster than expected. The most recent report from the U.N.  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast between 17 inches and 32 inches of sea-level rise by the end of this century if emissions keep increasing. A growing number of scientists think that may be too low...”

Image credit: NASA.

How to Lower Your Risk During a Hurricane. Here’s the intro to a story I just posted on “True story. One of my previous weather-tech companies, EarthWatch Communications, created 3-D weather graphics for the 1993 movie blockbuster “Jurassic Park”. While filming special effects at Universal Studios, I had a chance to chat with Steven Spielberg. My brush with fame. What did we talk about? The weather, of all things. Spielberg described filming conditions on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai as Category 4 Hurricane Iniki approached during September of 1992. “Hotel staff led us down into the basement to ride out the storm” Spielberg explained. I remember being shocked by this. “The basement? In a tornado you want to be in the basement but during a hurricane you want to be on a higher floor to escape the storm surge” I said. The legendary film director’s eyes got big as we shook hands to say goodbye, but I remember being a little shaken by the encounter. How could hotel officials living and working within yards of the Pacific Ocean have done something so dangerously stupid?…”

Hurricane Forecasts May Be Running Headlong Into the Butterfly Effect. Have we reached a theoretical limit? A story at Ars Technica is worth a read; here are 2 excerpts: “…From the period of 1990 through 2016, the three-day track error for tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico declined from 555km to 185km, dramatically reducing the size of hurricane warning and evacuation zone areas. Similarly, the three-day track error in the eastern North Pacific hurricane region fell from 415km to 135km over the same period…However, a new study suggests that this winning combination of computers and humans may be reaching its limits. “When you look at the improvements in hurricane track forecasting, they’re astounding,” said study co-author Chris Landsea, who is a scientist at the National Hurricane Center. “They’ve dropped two-thirds in a generation. But we know we’re not going to get to zero errors...”

Image credit: “Hurricane Florence on NOAA’s GOES satellite in 2018.” NOAA.

AccuWeather Misleads on Global Warming and Extreme Heat – A Throwback to Past Climate Denial. The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang had the post; here’s the intro: “A week after a punishing heat wave torched the eastern two-thirds of the country, setting numerous records, AccuWeather chief executive Joel Myers cast doubt on the scientific finding that heat waves in the United States and elsewhere are worsening because of climate change. This point of view, at odds with peer-reviewed research, is reminiscent of the contrarian position AccuWeather took on the climate change issue in the 1990s, which historical documents recently obtained by The Washington Post shine light on. Both then and now, AccuWeather has landed on the wrong side of the science. Myers’s essay “Throwing cold water on extreme heat hype,” published online Wednesday, attempts to debunk the scientific finding that heat waves in the United States are becoming more severe, but he cherry-picks data and shows an incomplete understanding of the drivers of temperature change…”

Parts of Alaska Have No Sea Ice For the First Time Ever As Temperatures in Region Hit Record Highs. A story at caught my eye; here’s the intro: “Alaska has seen the lowest levels of sea ice ever this summer as record temperatures and wildfires hit the region with some areas completely ice free — an event which has never occurred so early in the year and has ramifications for the arctic climate and the Earth as a whole. Compared to all other recorded years of research, this August has the lowest levels of arctic sea ice ever, according to Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). “Basically, if you look at Point Barrow — the northernmost point of Alaska — there’s probably no sea ice within 300 to 350 miles right now,” says Serreze. Historically, he says, at this time of year there should still be some ice close to or along the coast of Alaska, not hundreds of miles away...”

Great Lakes’ Latest Pollution Threat is “Microplastics”. Here’s an excerpt from Star Tribune: “A new contaminant has turned up in western Lake Superior — tiny snarls, tangles and shreds of plastic that are appearing by the hundreds of thousands, mystifying scientists and Minnesota pollution regulators. While the level of debris doesn’t approach the microplastic soup found near Hawaii, a gyre known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it does exceed what’s been found in the north Atlantic Ocean. The discovery has prompted researchers at the University of Minnesota, Duluth to expand testing to other Minnesota lakes and the fish that inhabit them…”

File photo credit: Brendan Bannon – New York Times. “Tiny plastic beads can slip past water treatment plants and into the Great Lakes.”

Tree-Damaging Pests Pose “Devastating” Threat to 40% of U.S. Forests. The Guardian summarizes new research: “About 40% of all forests across the US are at risk of being ravaged by an army of harmful pests, undermining a crucial resource in addressing the climate crisis, new research has found. Tree-damaging pests have already destroyed swathes of US woodland, with the American chestnut virtually wiped out by a fungal disease and elms blighted by Dutch elm disease. About 450 overseas pests that damage or feed on trees have been introduced to US forests due to the growth in international trade and travel. A PNAS-published study of the 15 most damaging non-native forest pests has found that they destroy so many trees that about 6m tons of carbon are expelled each year from the dying plants. This is the equivalent, researchers say, of adding an extra 4.6m cars to the roads every year in terms of the release of planet-warming gases…”

File photo credit: “These trees show the effects of western spruce budworm on subalpine firs along Going-to-the-Sun Road. The picture was taken from the road near Wild Goose Island Overlook in 2012.”Chris Peterson, National Park Service.

Epstein Suicide Conspiracies Show How Our Information System is Poisoned. You got that right. Here are 2 clips from a The New York Times Op-Ed: “…The dueling hashtags and their attendant toxicity are a grim testament to our deeply poisoned information ecosystem — one that’s built for speed and designed to reward the most incendiary impulses of its worst actors. It has ushered in a parallel reality unrooted in fact and helped to push conspiratorial thinking into the cultural mainstream. And with each news cycle, the system grows more efficient, entrenching its opposing camps. The poison spreads…Saturday’s online toxicity may have felt novel, but it’s part of a familiar cycle: What cannot be easily explained is answered by convenient untruths. The worst voices are rewarded for growing louder and gain outsize influence directing narratives. With each cycle, the outrage and contempt for the other builds…”

No, Lyme Disease Is Not an Escaped Military Bioweapon, Despite What Conspiracy Theorists Say. The Washington Post has the story; here’s a clip: “…I started working on Lyme disease in 1985. As part of my doctoral thesis, I investigated whether museum specimens of ticks and mice contained evidence of infection with the bacterial agent of Lyme disease before the first known American human cases in the mid-1970s. Working with microbiologist David Persing, we found that ticks from the South Fork of Long Island collected in 1945 were infected. Subsequent studies found that mice from Cape Cod, collected in 1896, were infected. So decades before Lyme was identified — and before military scientists could have altered or weaponized it — the bacterium that causes it was living in the wild. That alone is proof that the conspiracy theory is wrong. But there are plenty of other lines of evidence that show why Lyme disease did not require the human hand changing something Mother Nature had nurtured...”

Did We Evolve to See Reality As It Exists? According to one researcher the answer is no. Here’s a clip from a post at Big Think: “…But Hoffman’s hypothesis, which he wrote about in a recent issue of New Scientist, takes it a step further. He argues our perceptions don’t contain the slightest approximation of reality; rather, they evolved to feed us a collective delusion to improve our fitness. Using evolutionary game theory, Hoffman and his collaborators created computer simulations to observe how “truth strategies” (which see objective reality as is) compared with “pay-off strategies” (which focus on survival value). The simulations put organisms in an environment with a resource necessary to survival but only in Goldilocks proportions...”

File image: NASA.

Who’s Afraid of Hurricane Dolly? More than a morsel of truth to an opinion piece at The Wall Street Journal: “…Sure enough, a 2014 National Academy of Sciences study found the death tolls from hurricanes with feminine names tend to be higher than from those with masculine names. The scientists hypothesized that male names are scarier than female ones and tested it by asking subjects to estimate the intensity of hypothetical storms. Sure enough, they expected Dolly to be weaker than Omar…It’s high time the WMO updated its names. One solution would be to name storms after predators—say, Tiger or Shark. If Omar is scarier then Dolly, Shark is surely scarier than Omar. Or maybe the WMO can take inspiration from horror films. Tropical storm Poltergeist. Hurricane Slasher. Or Demon, Devil, Jaws, Chucky...”

82 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities, before the storms arrived.

81 F. average high on August 13.

92 F. high on August 13, 2018.

August 14, 1978: The Boundary Waters area is hit by a strong tornado. Some of the damage could still be seen 10 years later.

WEDNESDAY: Mix of clouds and sun. Winds: N 5-10. High: 75

THURSDAY: Lukewarm sun, T-storms at night. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 58. High: 77

FRIDAY: Showers and T-storms slowly taper. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 62. High: 76

SATURDAY: Warm sun, then PM T-storms arrive. Winds: SW 10-15.Wake-up: 64. High: 83

SUNDAY: Warm sunshine, a drier day. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 62. High: near 80

MONDAY: Partly sunny and pleasant. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 59. High: 82

TUESDAY: Unsettled, slight thunder risk. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 64. High: 84

Climate Stories….

Extreme Climate Change has Arrived in America. Here’s an excerpt from a Washington Post analysis: “…A Washington Post analysis of more than a century of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration temperature data across the Lower 48 states and 3,107 counties has found that major areas are nearing or have already crossed the 2-degree Celsius mark.

— Today, more than 1 in 10 Americans — 34 million people — are living in rapidly heating regions, including New York City and Los Angeles. Seventy-one counties have already hit the 2-degree Celsius mark.

— Alaska is the fastest-warming state in the country, but Rhode Island is the first state in the Lower 48 whose average temperature rise has eclipsed 2 degrees Celsius. Other parts of the Northeast — New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts — trail close behind…”

West Antarctica is Melting, and It’s Our Fault. National Geographic explains; here’s an excerpt: “...But while the science was clear that human influences on climate would affect the ice down the line, it has been hard to tell whether human-driven global warming has affected the melting already underway. Now, a team has unraveled evidence of that human influence. In a study published Monday in Nature Geoscience, a team of scientists showed that over the past century, human-driven global warming has changed the character of the winds that blow over the ocean near some of the most fragile glaciers in West Antarctica. Sometimes, those winds have weakened or reversed, which in turn causes changes in the ocean water that laps up against the ice in a way that caused the glaciers to melt. “We now have evidence to support that human activities have influenced the sea level rise we’ve seen from West Antarctica,” says lead author Paul Holland, a polar scientist at the British Antarctic Survey…”

Photo credit: “Pine Island Glacier, in West Antarctica, is retreating quickly. In 2014, this iceberg, 20 miles wide, broke off the tongue of the glacier and floated away. Other chunks of ice continue to shear off the glacier.” Photograph by Jeff Schmaltz, NASA/GSFC/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team.

The Bizarre Weather Science Behind Greenland’s Record Melting. A warming climate is only part of the problem, according to a story at “…In general, it’s very clear the NAO is important in controlling the amount of melting we’re getting,” glaciologist Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute told Motherboard. “The question of whether we’re getting more extremes is more contentious.” Weather aside, the long-term trend is clear: Greenland is losing its ice. The rate of loss has increased sixfold since the 1980s, per a paper published earlier this year. And recent summertime thaws have a big role to play. Sarah Das, a glaciologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who’s used ice core records to reconstruct Greenland’s recent melt history, described the 2012 melt event that enveloped nearly the entire ice sheet’s surface as “unprecedented” in the last few centuries, perhaps within the last several thousand years…”

Graphic credit: “Average NAO index for May—July from 1950 to present. Bottom: Average NAO index for May—July from 2002-present. Recent negative NAO summers frequently coincide with large surface melting.” Image: Mike Bevis.

Will Climate Change Close the Matterhorn? Having climbed the Matterhorn when I was in my mid-20s, a story at Outside Online caught my eye: “...A total of six people have died on the Matterhorn so far this year, and 11 died attempting to reach its summit last season. The 14,642-foot peak has always been one of the world’s most dangerous; it’s estimated that more than 500 people have died since it was first summited in 1865.  “The Matterhorn is not a piece of solid granite. It’s a piece of shales [soft, stratified sedimentary rock]. It’s not very stable,” says Raphael Mayoraz, a geologist, mountain guide, and head of the natural-hazards department of the Swiss canton of Valais, where the mountain is located. A study by the PermaSense project released in 2019 found that melting permafrost and receding glaciers have made rockfalls an even greater danger on hot summer days…”

Image credit:

Once-Unpopular Carbon Credits Emerge as One of the World’s Best Investments. The Wall Street Journal reports: “Carbon-emission credits, long shunned by traders, are now one of the world’s best-performing investments. The price of the credits, doled out by governments in Europe to polluting power plants and steel mills to curtail the production of greenhouse gases, has soared more than fivefold over the past two years. Prices are up strongly again this year and near a record of about €30 ($33.60) a ton of carbon dioxide emitted. Driving prices higher is a combination of a shrinking supply of credits and a hot summer in Europe, which has put big demands on power plants that are legally required to hold the credits to operate. The recovery has drawn back investors who largely abandoned the market when prices collapsed last decade…”

Sea Level Rise is Combining With Other Factors to Regularly Flood Miami. A preview of coming attractions, it would seem. Here’s an excerpt from a Capital Weather Gang article: “It doesn’t take a hurricane to cause flooding in Miami anymore. In fact, it doesn’t even take a gust of wind. “King tides” have been taking a toll on Miami for a number of years, and the phenomenon is only getting worse because of sea-level rise from human-induced climate change. A king tide is a higher -than-normal tide caused by specific alignments of the sun and moon. Miami set daily high tide records for more than a week straight for the period bridging late July and early August, despite a total lack of storminess in the region. Sunny day coastal flooding is now routine, submerging some areas on a monthly basis when the sun and moon line up just right. There’s even a “king tide season” in the late fall and early winter, when the flooding is particularly severe…”

Climate Changes is Making Us Sicker. Here’s a clip from a post at The Roanoke Times: “…Longer and hotter summers are causing more heat-related illnesses, more allergies, and more exacerbations of lung and heart diseases. Extreme heat like we are experiencing can even be deadly. The human body has a few tricks up its sleeve to regulate high temperature, such as sweating. But prolonged exposure to extreme heat can overwhelm the body’s ability to cope and result in dehydration and markedly elevated body temperature called hyperthermia…”

The Class of 0000. I interviewed Lia Harel on WCCO Radio Friday afternoon. Politicans who ignore the next generation of (voters) are playing with fire. Here’s a link from “Graduation speakers all around the country are sending a warning to 2020 presidential hopefuls: have a plan to get to zero emissions in 11 years, or lose our votes. Here & Now’s Lisa Mullins talks with youth climate activist and organizer of the Class of 0000 movement, Lia Harel.”

The Future of Farming: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Changing the way the world manages its lands will be crucial to limiting warming, according to the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land released yesterday. The agriculture sector in particular needs to adapt, as reliable food production is threatened by the changing climate, and many farming practices are actually accelerating warming. The report also lays out some sustainable farming options, like soil management techniques that will increase how much carbon soil can absorb, showing that the agriculture sector can also be a part of the solution. Limiting food waste and making dietary changes, such as eating more plant-based and sustainable animal-sourced food, are also presented as ways to reduce emissions. “Some dietary choices require more land and water, and cause more emissions of heat-trapping gases than others,” explained Debra Roberts, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II.” (TIME, USA Today, NPR, PBS NewsHour, Atlantic, Mic, The New Yorker, Salon, Rolling Stone, Popular Science, Carbon Brief, E&E $, Ars Technica, Colorado Public Radio, WBUR, WVTF, WKYC, Cheddar, Geek, VOA. Commentary: New York Times, Alan Sano op-ed $, The Hill, Seth Watkins op-ed).

Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns. The New York Times reports: “The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself. The report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly. A half-billion people already live in places turning into desert, and soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming, according to the report. Climate change will make those threats even worse, as floods, drought, storms and other types of extreme weather threaten to disrupt, and over time shrink, the global food supply…”

File image: Tim McCabe, USDA.